Visiting Prague with my Olympus OM-D E-M1
by Trent Cooper
Hi Brandon and Steve,
Love your website. I have been enjoying it; reading your reviews as well as getting inspiration from you and your readers. Your website was instrumental in my decision to purchase my Olympus OMD EM-1. Another factor was the retro feel and look of the camera, which was further enhanced by my burgeoning interest in fixed focal length lenses. If the greatest photographers throughout history could make incredible photographs using one lens, I could at least give it a try to get lucky enough to get one or two good shots.
Recently, my wife and I took a trip to Europe that included a visit to the incredible city of Prague. During this trip, I challenged myself to spend time shooting only with my fixed focal length lenses, often going out with just my camera and one lens. I have the Olympus 12mm, 17mm, 25mm, and 45mm lenses, all of which are small, light, and of very good quality. I would estimate that I used the 17mm (35mm full frame equivalent) about 75 percent of the time. I discovered that it just worked for me and it was definitely my favorite focal length. (So much so, that upon returning home, I found a good deal on a used Fuji X100S, to continue my retro, fixed focal length theme.)
I purposely did very little research before arriving at our destinations. I wanted to discover the cities for myself, and not be tempted to try to replicate the work of those that have been there before me. I found the city to be absolutely magical, and the photo opportunities are endless. I must admit, there were a couple of occasions where I could have used a long zoom to compress the perspective, or reach out to an interesting subject some distance away. However, generally speaking, after the initial adjustment, I didn’t miss having a zoom lens at all. I found shooting with fixed focal length lenses to be rewarding, interesting, challenging, and just plain fun. I felt like an old-school photographer, following in
the footsteps of Cartier-Bresson or Kertesz.
Having spent many years shooting a DSLR with a range of zoom lenses, limiting myself to shooting with fixed lenses was an interesting challenge. I found that it definitely forced me to look at things differently, to slow down, and to work harder to find the best vantage point to allow me to get the shot I wanted. It forced me to become more deliberate and thoughtful in my shooting. It required me slow down, think, and work to get the shot. It also forced me to accept that there were shots that I just couldn’t get, given the limitations of the equipment I had with me at the moment. I quickly learned that it was okay, and to just move on and find the next good spot.
With zoom lenses, I have a tendency to shoot many frames, adjusting the focal length of the lens in the hopes of getting something interesting. Most of the time, I would just end up with a bunch of shots I wasn’t happy with. With a fixed lens, I had to work harder to get the shot I wanted. I actually had to move my feet! Interestingly, and somewhat contradictory, I found myself wanting to take my tripod with me when going out and about. I used my tripod more often than I ever have while travelling. By slowing down and being more deliberate in my shooting, the use of the tripod did not feel like the burden that it often does. The end result? A higher
percentage of shots that I was happy with.
Thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts and my photos.